Monterey Bay Aquarium moves penguin chick

In this Jan. 8, 2011 photo provided by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a worker holds an African blackfooted penguin chick shortly after it hatched at the aquarium in Monterey, Calif. The chick, the first of its kind to hatch at the aquarium, will remain on exhibit with its parents through the end of January, before it is moved behind the scenes to become more acclimated to people. (AP Photo/Monterey Bay Aquarium, Aimee Greenebaum)

January 30, 2011 3:34:45 PM PST
A 3-week-old penguin chick at Monterey Bay Aquarium was temporarily moved off exhibit Saturday and will be raised behind the scenes, officials reported.

The aquarium's first African blackfooted penguin chick will be hand-raised by staff members for the next two months and will return to the Splash Zone exhibit, where it will serve as an "education bird" and help raise awareness about threats penguins face in the wild.

During the two months, staff will hand-feed fish to the chick and teach it to swim, while it becomes accustomed to being handled by humans. Chicks are vulnerable and the move will protect it from potential hazards, officials said.

"A young chick can't swim, and it might fall in the water and be unable to get out," associate curator of aviculture Aimee Greenebaum said in a statement. "Other birds might become aggressive toward it."

Greenebaum added that when birds become curious, they tend to investigate by biting.

The chick hatched Jan. 8 and has been cared for by its parents, Umngane and Dassen.

The baby now weighs 2.4 pounds and its sex remains unknown. The sex of penguin can only be determined with a blood test, not color or size, according to the aquarium's website.

Over time, the chick will be slowly reintroduced to the Splash Zone environment.